Twenty percent of Americans spend their entire day in school, but few have a say in the quality of the accommodations.
Children are often exposed to toxic materials and noisy surroundings that interfere with learning. Outdated classrooms have inadequate lighting and poor ventilation. Inefficient energy usage sucks up precious resources, and most schools don’t have enough funding to do anything about it.
Schools are playing catch-up. From skyscrapers to homes and businesses, green buildings are becoming the status quo.
TakePart spoke with Ruben Aronin, director of communications and donor relations at Global Green, to get the scoop on this exciting opportunity.
For the past nine years, Global Green USA has transformed schools across the country. The nonprofit organization worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District to green the nation’s largest new school construction project, overseeing $15 billion worth of work in 61 schools.
“We’re just beginning to see those schools completed, and the results will be dramatically lower utility bills, improved health, and better performance for kids and teachers,” Aronin shares.
Global Green also provided a blueprint to the Louisiana Recovery School District to rebuild schools greener after Hurricane Katrina.
“We really need to create a movement across the country to demand that our kids, our most precious natural resource, can go to school in healthy green schools. One way to accomplish that is through this national Green School Makeover Competition.”
To enter, schools must fill out the official entry form by September 30, describing a green project they’d like to undertake at their school.
The winning school will receive $65,000 to be used for the project, as well as an additional $65,000 in technical support. Four runner-up schools will each receive $2,500 toward their green project proposals.
Ideas for contest proposals range from planting a school garden or starting a recycling program, to installing a new Energy Star HVAC system or building a biology pond.
Aronin divulged four criteria the jury will be looking for when evaluating applications:
- Innovation: Is this something that hasn’t been done in the school or district before?
- Feasibility: Can the school realistically accomplish what they’re proposing?
- Replicability: Can the green project be documented and shared as a best practice for other schools to follow?
- Stakeholder Involvement: Within the school community, how will all parties be educated about the green activity?
NOW IS THE TIME
“Schools are playing catch-up,” explains Aronin. “From skyscrapers to homes and businesses, green buildings are becoming the status quo. Sadly, we’re still building and modernizing schools the same way we did 50 years ago.”
Given how cash-strapped today’s schools are, saving money is one of the main reasons they should be eager to go green. “Our schools spend more in utilities than we spend on books and computers for our classrooms,” Aronin says.
Green innovations can be used to teach environmental stewardship, not to mention that “one of the best ways to excite kids about learning is by putting them in healthier, greener spaces and schools they want to come to,” he added.
“While so much of education seems to be in crisis, one thing we know is that, like potted plants, people and kids thrive a lot better with natural daylight and good air quality. If we can provide those features in our school buildings, we’ll be doing a real service for our kids and teachers.”